Meat and Three Veg

From Ngaire’s journal, 16th May 1951
Mr Bradley and his assistant came and installed a point in the pantry for the refrigerator which up to the present has been plugged into the cooker. I went to Choir Practice this evening.”

This is a bit odd, because in 1955 (four years later to the day which surely can’t be a coincidence), Ngaire wrote that it was ‘lovely to have the refrigerator’.  I assumed she was celebrating the arrival of refrigeration, but it must have been that the novelty still hadn’t worn off .

Whitegoods aside, the thing I really enjoyed about this entry was that instead of ‘the electrician’ or Reg, Jack, Tom or Bill, it was Mr Bradley and his assistant. I hope they wore grey dust coats with their names embroidered on the pocket.
By the way (and please correct me if I’m wrong), I think powerpoints on cookers was an NZ thing.Making the meatloaf

I’ve been using my cooker to turn out Ngaire’s spectacularly good  (and very thrifty) Roll-up Meat Loaf. It made meat-and-three-veg night quite exciting, and it’ll be meatloaf and tomato sauce sandwiches for the next couple of days.

Roll-up meat loaf

1 ½ lbs (700 gms)  minced beef, ½ lb (350 gms) minced pork, 1 onion and 2 stalks celery  and a small handful fresh herbs (parsley, sage, thyme) all chopped finely.
¼ tsp dry mustard, salt and pepper.
4 slices bread made into breadcrumbs, ½ cup milk, 2 eggs lightly beaten, 1 tbs Worcester Sauce.
3 or 4 large rashers of bacon

Soak the breadcrumbs in milk and mix well.  Add beaten egg and Worcester Sauce.  Combine meat, vegetables and herbs then mix through the bread mixture (I gave my 13 year old a pair of gloves and he was very happy to do this).

Turn the mixture out onto a large sheet of baking paper and shape into a rectangle (should be about 1.5  cm thick).  Spread with the stuffing and roll like a sponge roll.  Top with the bacon rashes and bake at 350°F (180°C) for 45 minutes.

For the stuffing

6 – 8 slices of stale bread (I like using a grainy or rye loaf), 1 small onion roughly chopped, 1 ½ tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs, ground pepper, about ¼ cup melted butter. I also added dried cranberries to mine because I had some in the pantry.

Put everything except the butter in the food processor and whizz until breadcrumbs are fine.  Add enough melted butter to combine the mixture (needs to hold together but not be soggy).

3 Peas in a Pod

From Ngaire’s Journal, 2nd December 1948
“I took the children to school this morning as it was the Elmwood School Flower Show. It was a great event for the children. Carol and Warwick were very thrilled as they both were awarded as follows:

Ngaire with Carol and Warwick - 1949Warwick
3 peas in a pod – Highly com.
3 spring onions – 3rd

Aquilegias – 1st
Sweet peas – 2nd
Pinks – Highly com.

I went straight into town from the school and did my Christmas shopping and returned home at 12 noon.
This afternoon I went to see the show and afterwards visited Mrs Easton, the wife of Rev Clarence Easton who married us.

Gerald has gone to the Fruitgrowers’ Meeting tonight.”

Just another quiet day then.

Mum and Uncle Warwick’s skill in the garden stuck. The sunny side of the garage wall at Mum and Dad’s is covered with sweet peas every year and I never leave their house without a few cuttings or a bunch of flowers. Warwick graduated from threes to producing vast quantities of apples and stone fruit on the family orchard in Prestons Road and, since retiring from that, works in the Department of Agricultural Science at Lincoln University in Christchurch.

As for me, I finally have my veggie boxes going in the back yard and, following a small hiccup (they weren’t draining properly and smelt so foul I’m sure the neighbors thought I had a body hidden in the garden), am self sufficient in lettuce, rocket and basil, and have produced three prize snow peas.

It’s Beginning to Feel a bit Like Panic

From Ngaire’s journal, 21st November 1950
Made the Christmas Mince and Puddings and cleaned all the windows.

Good grief,  I turn my back on this blog for 5 minutes and she’s gone ahead and made the Christmas mince and puddings and cleaned the bloody windows. And made three Christmas Cakes.

3rd November 1953
Made 3 Christmas cakes today. One for Christmas Day. One for Christmas Eve and to give pieces away, and a small one to take with us to Akaroa.

The last five weeks have vanished in a blur of deadlines (I work as a freelance corporate writer), assignments (I’m studying professional writing and editing), celebrations (Max turned 13 and things got a bit out of hand), farewells (my husband’s lovely Uncle Guyse died), very early mornings (rowing season has started again) and a spot of genuine housekeeping (last weekend I was overwhelmed by the need to sort and archive all the winter clothes which may have been a form of procrastination or just a genetic thing I really can’t fight).

None of this would have made any difference to Ngaire of course (possibly because of the amphetamine-based diet pills she was almost certainly taking) so tomorrow I’m getting back on track and heading out to buy dried fruit and nuts. If not tomorrow, definitely the next day – there’s still 33 and a bit days until Christmas.

Inefficient Housekeeping

From Ngaire’s journal, 30th July 1949
Carol spent the day at a school friend’s house. It was Carol’s first experience of inefficient housekeeping and by the time she arrived home she had ‘had it’.”

I’m so pleased that my children have been able to experience inefficient housekeeping in the privacy of their own home. I wouldn’t want them to get a nasty shock when they go out into the world.

My grandparents’ beautiful orchard, Prestons Road, Christchurch. (Photo probably taken in the 60s.)

What is giving them a nasty shock is all this cold, wet rain (‘can you drive me to school?‘) After years of drought here in Melbourne, it’s odd to be needing rain coats and umbrellas (and amazing how quickly we’ve learnt to complain about it again).

Ngaire was well used to contending with wet weather. Christchurch is a spectacularly beautiful place, especially on a clear day.
I remember on the orchard at Prestons Road, sometimes the Port Hills seemed to be so close you could touch them. Still, it does know how to put on a cold, wet day, which is why Ngaire had this incredibly toxic recipe for waterproofing clothes which you absolutely MUST NOT try at home.

Better wet than dead I think.

Time Poor

From Ngaire’s journal, 24th July 1952
Today I thoroughly cleaned the kitchen and bathroom and Gerald painted the saucepan cupboard.”

I wish I had time to thoroughly clean the kitchen and bathroom. With that sort of time on my hands I could finish sewing the dress I cut out last winter, crochet some more squares for the afghan rug I’m making with a group of friends, trawl the streets for discarded wooden pallets to build boxes for the vegetable garden I’ve been planning forever or…go to bed and read my book in time for book club.

The truth is I seem to have lost the art of being idle (damn that Protestant work ethic) so, finding myself with a couple of spare hours, decide to make Cousin Dorrie’s marmalade.

Dorrie Coe was Ngaire’s first cousin on her father’s side (and later, also her step-first cousin on her step-mother’s side, but that’s another, convoluted story). Dorrie and her sister Vera were both accomplished cooks, and their recipes appear throughout Ngaire’s book. Anyway, Dorrie’s marmalade recipe calls for four Poorman oranges which, outside of Ruth Park’s novel Poorman’s Orange, I’ve never heard of. As it turns out there’s a link.

The Poorman orange is also known as ‘New Zealand Grapefruit’, and although we claim Ruth Park as an Australian, she was born in Auckland, NZ. Poorman oranges (which are probably a pomelo hybrid) are thought to have been brought to Australia from Shanghai in the early 1800s, and then sent to New Zealand around 1855. Poormans ripen in much cooler climates than ‘real’ grapefruit (or oranges), so it makes sense that they became popular in the South Island of New Zealand, where citrus can be difficult to grow. (My mother recalls Ngaire buying jars of home-made marmalade from a man in Akaroa, where the family often holidayed. The warm valleys on the Bank’s Peninsula were one of the few places citrus could be grown in Canterbury.)

Poormans are supposed to have particularly good rind for marmalade making, so it’s a bit disappointing that I can’t put my hands on any. I’m sure that, given a little time, I’ll be able to track some down, but for this batch I settled on a substitute of one ‘real’ grapefruit, two mandarins and two Seville oranges.

The second interesting ingredient in Dorrie’s recipe is brewer’s crystals which, after much searching, I’ve decided simply means sugar. I found a gorgeous article about marmalade in the Sydney Mail from June 1922 which says ‘there are some women who like to use brewer’s crystals for all their jam making. Personally I have used it, and found the brand very good. Still, I have made great successes with what we usually term ‘soft’ or cooking sugar, and for everyday use this is nice enough for anything.’ An article titled ‘Jam and Jelly Making‘ in a 1935 edition of the New Zealand Railway Magazine also mentions crystals, saying ‘use pure white sugar — brewers’ crystals for preference.’ If anyone can tell me anything more about brewer’s crystals (or Poorman oranges) I’d love to hear from you.

Dorrie’s Marmalade

Ingredients: 4 Poorman oranges (or substitute a mixture of grapefruit, oranges and mandarins), 2 sweet oranges, 2 lemons, water, white sugar.

  1. Wash and peel the fruit. Slice the peel into very thin matchsticks then put to one side. (Dorrie’s recipe simply says ‘cut fine’ but this is what I did.)
  2. Peel off and discard as much of the white pith as you can from the flesh. Also discard pips then put the fruit into a food processor and pulse until pulp.
  3. Collect the juice by pushing the pulp through a sieve. (You’ll need to weigh the juice so use a suitable bowl.) Put the pulp into a muslin bag, or tie in a clean tea towel that you’re not very attached to. (Dorrie’s recipe doesn’t mention separating the pulp, but doing this will give you a very clear jelly.)
  4. Add the peel to the juice and weigh. For each 1 kg add 500 mls of water. Write down the weight – you’ll need the figure again.
  5. Add the bag of pulp (you need this for the pectin) to the juice/peel and let stand for 24 hours.
  6. The next day, boil until the rind is tender (approximately 1 hour). Once cool, squueze all juice from the bag of pulp then discard. Let the mixture stand for another 24 hours.
  7. The following day, sterilize jam jars and lids (I put them through the dishwasher on hot).
  8. Bring mixture to the boil again. Add 1.25 kg of sugar for every 1 kg of juice/peel (i.e. the original weight) and stir until dissolved.
  9. Boil hard until the marmalade reaches setting point (test by spooning onto a cool saucer and putting in the fridge for 5 minutes). Allow to cool a little then pour into jars.

Delicious on toast for breakfast, in a steamed pudding, as a glaze on pork or slathered on fresh bread and eaten in bed while you finish your book club book.

Jam and Jelly Making: NZETC,, citrus pages

And on the Third Day…

They ate Shepherd’s Pie.

If you were here on May 16th (Home Eco), you’ll know that I was planning to drive my lamb roast further by putting some aside for a Shepherd’s Pie the next night. The roast on Monday, pie on Tuesday formula. As it turned out, enthusiasm got the better of me and I cooked the roast on Sunday night. And again on Monday night because we ate it all. Well, not quite all – I did manage to salvage a little for roast lamb sandwiches the next day, so didn’t feel like a complete spendthrift.

It’s all my friend Janetta’s fault. Last year we spent Easter with two other families at Cape Otway (just past Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road).  Janetta and Andrew were on Sunday lunch duty, and impressed everyone by getting up at midday and serving an amazing roast half an hour later. The lamb had been cooking for 5 hours in a bottle of white wine (in the wine that is, not the bottle) with fresh herbs and vegetables and was absolutely delicious. When we’d finished eating we sopped up the juices with crusty bread then stared out the window at the ocean and wondered why every Sunday couldn’t be this way.

I’ve been meaning to cook Janetta’s roast ever since, but when I rang her for the recipe she told me it wasn’t her’s but her friend Janet’s. Janet in turn credited another friend, but the friend, while flattered, said Jamie Oliver deserved the praise.

I love this unwritten cook’s code: always give credit where it’s due. It’s a little like cuttings and seedlings from other people’s gardens. In my garden I have Kerrie’s mint, Stan’s dahlias, Mum’s japonica (Dad dug up some root-stock) and, amongst lots of other bits and pieces, Great Grandfather May’s Glory Vine. Everyone in my family has it in their garden. The original was planted by my father’s grandparents on their farm at  Joel Joel in Victoria. The house and vine have gone now and what we have are cuttings from cuttings, but it will always be the ‘May vine’, and so it is with recipes.

Slow Cooked Lamb Roast
With thanks and full credit to Janetta, Janet, Janet’s friend and Jamie Oliver.

Large leg of lamb, 2 large onions (peeled and quartered), few rashes streaky bacon (cut into thirds), 4 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced), potatoes, carrots and parsnips (peeled and cut into pieces).
Few bay leaves and whatever other herbs you fancy (I used rosemary, thyme and a little tarragon because that’s what was in the garden).
Bottle of white wine, 3/4 wine bottle of water, olive oil, salt and black pepper.
You’ll also need a large (deep) roasting pan or baking dish.

Preheat the oven to 160C. Saute the onion, bacon and garlic in some olive oil in the dish you’ll be using.  Add the meat and brown on all sides.  Toss in the herbs then pour in wine and water. You can add the vegetables now too, but I waited an hour. Cover tightly with lid or foil and bake for 4 or 5 hours until tender. Check once or twice during cooking to make sure there is still liquid in the dish. Top up with a little water if necessary – there should still be liquid in the bottom of the dish when you serve it. Season to taste. To serve, take the dish to the table. The meat will just pull apart and everyone can dip chunks of crusty bread in the juices (something we would never have been allowed to do to the Sunday roast!)

Note: Janetta adds preserved lemon and juice too. I didn’t have any, but can attest to how delicious that is.

Shepherd’s Pie
(The way Mum makes it)

1 kg potatoes for making mash, milk, butter and 1/2 cup grated cheese
1 onion and 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped), olive oil, 2 carrots and 2 sticks celery (diced), 1/2 cup beef stock plus and any leftover gravy.
About 500 gms roast lamb (very finely chopped or put through a mincer), dollop of tomato sauce and 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce.

Preheat the oven to about 180C.
Cook potatoes in salted water until tender.
Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil, add the vegetables and pour over a little stock or water and allow to soften. Add the meat and other ingredients and heat through. Transfer to casserole dish.
Mash potatoes with milk and butter, season then stir through grated cheese. Top meat with mashed potatoes and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden.